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Whose filial piety excels
Let us now recreate thee by turning to the other side, and shewing his character drawn by those with whom he never conversed, and whose countenances he could not know, though turned against him : First again commencing with the high-voiced and never-enough quoted
Mr. John Dennis, who, in his Reflections on the Essay on Criticism, thus de. scribeth him: “A little affected hypocrite, who has nothing in his mouth but candour, truth, friendship, good-nature, humanity, and magnanimity. He is so great a lover of falsehood, that whenever he has a mind to calumniate his con. temporaries, he brands them with some defect which was just contrary to some good quality for which all their friends and acquaintance commend them. He seems to have a particular pique to people of quality, and authors of that rank. —He must derive his religion from St. Omer's.—But in the character of Mr. P. and his writings (printed by S. Popping, 1716) he saith, “ Though he is a professor of the worst religion, yet he laughs at it;” but that, “ nevertheless, he is a virulent papist; and yet a 'pillar of the church of Eng. land."
Of both which opinions
Mr. Lewis Theobald seems also to be; declaring in Mist's Journal of June 22, 1718, “ That if he is not shrewdly abused, he made it his practice to cackle to both parties in their own sentiments.” But as to his pique against people of quality, the same Journalist doth not agree, but saith (May 8, 1728), “He had by some means or other, the acquaintance and friendsh: of the whole body of our nobility.”
However contradictory this may appear, Mr Dennis and Gildon, in the character last cited, make it all plain, by assuring us, “ That he is a creature that reconciles all contradictions : he is a beast, and a man; a Whig and a Tory; a writer (at one and the same time) of Guardians and Examiners; ? an assertor of liberty, and of the dispensing power of kings; a Jesuitical professor of truth; a base and foul pretender to candour.” So that, upon the whole account, we must conclude him either to have been a great hypocrite, or a very honest man; a terrible imposter on both parties, or very moderate to either.
Be it as to the judicious reader shall seem good. Sure it is, he is little favoured of certain authors, whose wrath is perilous: For one declares he ought to have a price set on
1 The names of two weekly papers.
his head, and to be hunted down as a wild beast.' An. other protests he does not know what may happen; advises him to ensure his person; says he has bitter enemies, and expressly declares it will be well if he escapes with his life. 2 One desires he would cut his own throat or, hang himself.3 But.Pasquin seemed rather inclined it should be done by the government, representing him engaged in grievous designs with a lord of parliament then under prosecution.4 Mr. Dennis himself hath written to a minister, that he is one of the most dangerous persons in this kingdom; 5 and assureth the public, that he is an open and mortal enemy to his coun.' try; a monster that will one day, shew as daring a soul as a mad Indian, who runs a muck to kill the first Christian he meets. 6 Another gives information of treason discovered in his poem.? Mr. Curll boldly supplies an imperfect verse with kings and princesses: and one Matthew Concanen, yet more impudent, publishes at length the two most sacred names in this nation, as members of the Dunciad ! 8
This is prodigious! yet it is almost as strange, that in the midst of these invectives his greatest enemies have (I know not how) borne testimony to some merit in him.
Mr. Theobald, in censuring his Shakespeare, declares, "He has so great an esteem for Mr. Pope, and so high an opinion of his genius and excellencies; that, notwithstanding he professes a veneration almost rising to idolatry for the writings of this inestimable poet, he would be very loath even to do him justice at the expense of that other gentleman's character.” 9
Mr. Charles Gildon, after having violently attacked_him in many pieces, at last came to wish from his heart, “That Mr. Pope would be prevailed upon to give us Ovid's Epistles by his hand, for it is certain we see the original of Sappho to Phaon with much more life and likeness in his version, than in that of Sir Car Scrope. And this (he adds) is the more to be wished, because in the English tongue we have scarcely anything truly and naturally written upon love. 10 He also, in taxing Sir Richard Black.
1 Theobald, Letter in “Mist's Journal," June 22, 1728.
4 Anno 1723.
5 Anno 1729. 6 Preface to “ Rem. on The Rape of the Lock,'” p. 12; and in the last page of that treatise
7 Page 6. 7, of the Preface, by Concanen, to a book called, “A Col. lection of all the Letters, Essays, Verses, and Advertisements," occasioned by Pope and Swift's “Miscellanies,” Printed for A. Moore, 8vo, 1712.
8 A list of Persons, &c., at the end of the forementioned “Collection of all the Letters, Essays,” &c.
9 Introduction to his “Shakespeare Restored,” in 4to, p. 3. 10 “Commentary on the Duke of Buckingham's * Essay,'" 8vo, 1721, p. 97, 98.
more for his herterodox opinions of Homer, challengeth him to answer what Mr. Pope hath said in his preface to that poet.
Mr. Oldmixon calls him a great master of our tongue; declares “the purity and perfection of the English language to be found in his Homer ; and, saying there are more good in verses Dryden's Virgil than in any other work, except this of our author only.” 1
The Author of a Letter to Mr. Cibber says: “Pope was so good a versifier [once] that, his predecessor Mr. Dryden, and his contemporary Mr. Prior excepted, the harmony of his numbers is equal to anybody's. And, that he had all the merit that a man can have that way.”)? And
Mr. Thomas Cooke,
“But in his other works what beauties shine,
And bade them live to brighten future days.”'3
H. Stanhope, the maker of certain verses to Duncan Campbell,4 in that poem, which is wholly a satire upon Mr. Pope, confesseth,
“ 'Tis true, if finest notes alone could shew
Mist's Journal, June 8, 1728. Although he says, “The smooth numbers of the Dunciad are all that recommend it, nor has it any other merit;" yet that same paper hath these words: “The author is allowed to be a perfect master of an easy and elegant versification. In all his works we find the most happy turns, and natural sim. iles, wonderfully short and thick sown.”
The Essay on the Dunciad also owns, p. 25, it is very full of beautiful images. But the panegyric which crowns all that can be said on this poem, is bestowed by our laureate,
Mr. Colley Cibber, who “ grants it to be a better poem of its kind than ever was writ:” but adds, “it was a victory over a parcel of poor
1 In his prose “ Essay on Criticism." 2 Printed by J. Roberts, 1742, p. 11.
3 “Battle of the Poets," folio, p. 15. * Printed under the title of "The Progress of Dulness,” 12mo, 1728
wretches, whom it was almost cowardice to conquer.—A man might as well triumph for having killed so many silly flies that offended him. Could he have let them alone, by this time, poor souls ! they had all been buried in oblivion.” 1 Here we see our excellent laureate allows the justice of the satire on every man in it, but himself; as the great Mr. Dennis did before him. The said
Mr. Dennis and Mr. Gildon. in the most furious of all their words (the forecited Character, p. 5), do in concert ? confess, “That some men of good understanding value him for his rhymes.” And (p. 17) “ that he has got, like Mr. Bayes in the Rehearsal (that is, like Mr. Dryden), a notable knack at rhyming, and writing smooth verse ”
On his Essay on Man, numerous were the praises bestowed by his avowed enemies, in the imagination that the same was not written by him, as it was printed anonymously.
Thus sang of it even
“ Auspicious bard! while all admire thy strain,
Alike informs the soul, and charms the ear," &c.
Mr. Leonard Welsted
thus wrote 3 to the unknown author, on the first publication of the said Essay; “I must own, after the reception which the vilest and most immoral ribaldry hath lately met with, I was surprised to see what I had long despaired, a perform
i Cibber's “Letter to Mr. Pope," p. 9, 22. (In concert Hear how Mr. Dennis hath proved our mistake
his case : “As to my writing in concert with Mr. Gildon, I declare upon the honour and word of a gentleman, that I never wrote so much as one line in concert with any one man whatsoever. And these two letters from Gildon will plainly shew, that we are not writers in concert with each other.
Sir, *The height of my ambition is to please men of the best judgment; and, finding that I have entertained my master agreeably, I have the extent of the reward of my labour.'
I had not the opportunity of hearing of your excellent pamphlet till this day. I am infinitely satisfied and pleased with it, and hope you will meet with that encouragement your admirable performance deserves, &c.
CH. GILDON.' “Now is it not plain, that any one who sends such compliments to another, has not been used to write in partnership with him to whom he sends them?” Dennis, “ Remarks on the Dunciad," p. 50. Mr. Dennis is therefore welcome to take this piece to himself,
$ In a letter under his own hand, dated March 12, 1733,
ance deserving the name of a poet. Such, sir, is your work, It is, indeed, above all commendation, and ought to have been published in an age and country more worthy of it. If my testimony be of weight anywhere, you are sure to have it in the amplest manner, &c., &c., &c.
Thus we see every one of his works hath been extolled by one or other of his most inveterate enemies; and to the suc. cess of them all they do unanimously give testimony. But it is sufficient, instar omnium, to behold the great critic, Mr. Dennis, sorely lamenting it, even from the Essay on Criti. cism to this day of the Dunciad! “A most notorious instance (quoth he) of the depravity of genius and taste, the appro. bation this Essay meets with. I can safely affirm, that I never attacked any of these writings, unless they had success infinitely beyond their merit. This, though an empty, has been a popular scribbler. The epidemic madness of the times has given him reputation. 2–If, after the cruel treatment so many extraordinary men (Spenser, Lord Bacon, Ben Jonson, Milton, Butler, Otway, and others) have received from this country, for these last hundred years, I should shift the scene, and shew all that penury charged at once to riot and profuseness; and more squandered away upon one object, than would have satisfied the greater part of those extraordinary men; the reader to whom this one creature should be unknown, would fancy him a prodigy of art and nature, would believe that all the great qualities of these persons were centered in him alone. But if I should ven. ture to assure him, that the people of England had made such a choice—the reader would either believe me a mali. cious enemy, and slanderer, or that the reign of the last (Queen Anne's) ministry was designed by fate to encourage
But it happens that this our poet never had any place, pension, or gratuity, in any shape, from the said glorious queen, or any of her ministers. All he owed, in the whole course of his life, to any court, was a subscription for his Homer, of £200, from King George I. and £100 from the prince and princess.
However, lest we imagine our author's success was con. stant and universal, they acquaint us of certain works in a less degree of repute, whereof, although owned by others, yet do they assure us he is the writer. Of this sort Mr. Dennis 4 ascribes to him two farces, whose names he does not tell, but assures us that there is not one jest in them; and an imitation of Horace, whose title he does not mention, but assures us it is much more execrable than all his works.5 The “ Daily Journal,” May 11, 1728, assures us, “ He is below Tom Durfey, in the drama, because (as that writer thinks) the Marriage-Hater Matched,' and the ‘ Boarding
1 Dennis, preface to his “ Reflections on the Essay on Criticism." 2 Preface to his “Remarks on Homer.” 3 “ Remarks on Homer," pp. 8, 9, 6 Ib., p. 8, 4 “Character of Mr. Pope,” p. 7,